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Glengarry Glen Ross

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Four stars

Don’t be fooled by the implied panoramas in the title of David Mamet’s 1983 play, revived by director Sam Yates for this recast touring version following its West End success. Like everything else in Mamet’s brutal dissection of everyday capitalism at its most hysteria-driven, the wide-open idyll the phrase conjures up is a con designed to lure in the gullible, for whom such aspirations are a lifestyle choice.

By rights, Mamet’s portrait of toxic masculinity among the property-selling classes should be as old hat as the casual racism, big suits and even bigger talk sported by Mark Benton’s over the hill Shelley Levene and Nigel Harman’s relentless hustler Ricky Roma. Tethered to a fiercely competitive office environment and without a woman in sight or even referred to, they are hyped-up, testosterone-driven, status-chasing sharks who would trample each other into the crumbling foundations of everything they stand for to get ahead.

Such high-rolling posturing is but a symptom, alas, of a culture that brayed its way towards where we are now. In this way, looking at the play today is like jumping into a time capsule to revisit the ghosts of economic disasters past. With the first act introducing us to the play’s six principal players through a series of duologues exchanged like bullets on designer Chiara Stephenson’s gaudy Chinese restaurant set, it’s not difficult to read the office break-in that drives the second half as a metaphor for impending financial collapse.

Roma is a pre-Trumpian shyster with a flint-eyed intelligence to go with the slimeball theatrics, both played to the max by Harman. As Levene, rather than playing him as a sad sack, Benton carries a bull in a china shop’s sense of last-gasp desperation. There are points where his pugnaciousness can’t help but resemble Tory terrier Mark Francois. This is a two-fisted portent of the shape of things to come in a world where you can only hustle so much before you get caught.

The Herald, April 9th 2019

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